There's just something a little ludicrous about the World Series. The winner of baseball's annual love-in is hoisted atop America's shoulders and celebrated as the greatest baseball team in the world. Sure it is. The people that know how to play baseball, let alone those who give a crap about the game, come from about seven countries. If you want a real world champion in sports, you have to turn to soccer — or as it's called all over the universe outside the US: football. Over 200 countries or territories compete in its quadrennial world championship, the World Cup, and billions of people know it and love it as their first and only sport. And if you take a look at the next generation of Americans, or their more conspicuous soccer moms, you'll realize that soccer's arrival on the American cultural consciousness is growing faster and more inexorably than the waistbands on our fat-ass population. So it's time you learned a little more about the game. We're here, as always, to help out.

There are a few things you'll need to familiarize yourself with in order to have a functional understanding of the game. First, we'll give you a brief history of the game, so you'll know from whence it came. Then we'll give you a rundown of the objectives of the game and its basic rules. Next, we'll discuss the equipment of the game and the positions of the players. Finally, we'll go over the fouls and violations, and the officials who oversee them.

If you want to see some fancy footwork in action, check out this video on how to be the ultimate footballer.



Basically, people like kicking things around. Okay, so not many Americans seem to — we prefer throwing things (e.g., baseball, basketball) and full-body assault (e.g., football, hockey) — but you have to admit that there's an appeal to just knocking the crap out of something with your foot. Kickers are some of the most impressive athletes in the America — why do you think kickball is so popular with the kiddies?

Well, even if you don't like kicking things around, everyone else seems to. The earliest accounts of a game that resembled modern-day soccer can be found, where else, in ancient China — though this version wasn't pirated from somewhere else. Historians have found evidence dating from 2500 BC that a game known as "tsu chu" was played during the celebration of the emperor's birthday, and it involved kicking animal-skin balls through a hole in a net erected on tall poles. Of course, most of us think of soccer as an Old World game common amongst the Brits, and true to form, they were hooligans as far back as 1100 AD. There are accounts of the game being played in England for hundreds of years, but by the twelfth century, it had devolved into a mob riot played without any rules. Since the kings weren't too keen on losing their soldiers and tax-paying citizens to these early versions of a Sex Pistols' concert, the game was banned repeatedly by royal decree.

But an early version of the game was popular even over here: Native Americans played a game called "pasuckuakohowog," meaning "they gather to play ball with the foot," long before the Italian forward, Columbus, was substituted into the continent in 1492. These games involved as many as 1000 players and were often played on beaches half a mile wide with goals a mile apart.

The first attempt at formal rules for the game were published by an Italian, Giovanni Bardi, who referred to the game as "calcio." In fact, that's what soccer is still called in Italy, so when we said that everyone else calls it football, we lied a little. But hey, maybe after America wins the World Cup three times, then we can justify calling the game something else. Almost three centuries later, in 1877, the football associations of Great Britain assembled to draw up a uniform code. Back then, the British Empire was more than just a pathetic memory, so the game and its rules were exported widely across the world, which is why it is so universal today. Since the creation of those nineteenth century rules, the game has remained largely unchanged, though the international governing body, FIFA (Federation Internationale de Football Association), does modify the rules from time to time.